The American author, professor, feminist and social critic bell hooks has passed on. She reportedly died of kidney failure at her home area in Berea, Kentucky. She was aged 69.
hooks, also known as Gloria Jean Watkins, was considered a leading feminist academic. Her life and legacy is credited with inspiring modern African feminism. The bulk of her work —which spanned over 40 publications— pushed the theory of the intersectionality of race, class and gender. She argued that (Black) womanhood should be considered within a context of race and social class. Recognition of these differences and inequalities, she said, provided for a more inclusive feminism.
Born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky in 1952, bell hooks attended racially segregated schools for her basic education, and earned a degree in English from Stanford University in 1973. She subsequently received an MA and a doctorate in English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of California respectively. Her first book, a chapbook of poems titled “And There We Wept” was published in 1978. She adopted “bell hooks” as her pen name inspired by her maternal great grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks, whom she described as “known for her snappy and bold tongue.” She decided on a lowercase version to distinguish herself from her great grandmother and to draw focus to her work, rather than herself. Her latter path-breaking strings of publications included the acclaimed feminist manifesto “Ain’t I a Woman?” (1981) which was listed as one of the most influential women’s books in the last 20 years by Publishers Weekly, and also her essay “Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center” which called for “feminist solidarity across racial lines.”
Condolences have since poured in from fellow writers and fans distressed by the news, including author and feminist Roxane Gay who described the loss as “incalculable.”
May her soul Rest In Peace.